Yesterday was for me about son #1. Forgive this, and skip it if you either don’t have kids, or they have never given you a moments worry!! Son#1 ( I will call him B) was born to me as a single mother. His biological father has never seen him or had anything at all to do with him. He signed over parental rights to B (to my ex husband who adopted him) when B was 3. It took me a VERY LONG TIME, to see that it was not I, who failed B (although I take my share of less than perfect behaviour) but his useless feckless father who abandoned his responsibilities as a FATHER. I have not yet forgiven myself for the “mistake” of conceiving a child in these circumstances.
So B and I were a unit, from the beginning. We lived in one room in my mother’s house. I had £50 a week maternity allowance and NOTHING else. B was prem, sickly and had reflux. He had apnoea one day and was blue lighted to hospital – that was probably the worst day of my life. But, I’m tough, and I was a qualified GP (family doctor) so from 3 months old I started working, part time, locum shifts to start with. Found child care, upped my hours and when B was 11 months old I applied for and got a partnership in a local practice – where I still am today. I bought us a small house, B thrived. All good.
Then I met my ex husband. He is the subject of another blog post. And the reasons why I married him are the subject of about 2 blog posts, I think. But I did, and sons 2 and 3, both planned, came along. All good you might think. Except that exH was a drug addict (cannabis – and later cocaine- and cannabis, like alcohol is probably OK for most people – but for some it is most definitely NOT OK) my exH fell into the latter category. A messy, painful, frightening, desperate few years passed, and I divorced him.
to his credit exH has always treated B as his own son, and this continued after we divorced.
I identified early that B was not quite like other kids. He smiled late, he never had separation anxiety, his speech was a little delayed, he had odd phrases, and these persisted after you would expect them to have stopped. He was not fully and reliably dry till about 6. But, even though I am a bloody doctor, I never put 2 & 2 together to get the correct answer. I think I might have done if he had had an older sibling, but he was my first. He went to school and struggled. Eventually, aged 9 he got a diagnosis of moderate dyslexia, followed swiftly by a positive assessment for Asperger’s syndrome.
It’s mild. The aspergers, but it has shaped his whole life. You don’t see it when he is with adults, as he has trained himself to make pretty good eye contact and he is articulate. You don’t see it with younger kids, who will do as an older child directs, But you do see it with his peers, where he is “odd” and they exclude him. This happened again and again, and you can’t make kids be kind to each other. The full extent of the bullying he felt at junior school has only very recently come to my attention.
He started stealing, and lying compulsively. He started ordering things on the internet meant for adults, he skipped school. He was expelled from school for theft (on CCTV ) and arrested for possession of cannabis. By now he was 14/15. Academic study stopped. He got in with the wrong crowd because he was so desperate for friends. He failed all but 3 of his GCSE exams ( for my non UK readers, a child of his ability should have got 8-10 good passes) significantly he did not pass English.
He took a resit year. Did no work, spent almost all his time with a girl I cannot say I was pleased with. Failed again.
In the meantime his weight has doubled, he had no motivation to exercise, was unable to find even a part time job, was sullen, uncommunicative and his future looked very very bleak indeed.
And all the time ( from aged 13 probably) exP has been imposing increasingly severe and unkind sanctions on him. Bullying him, humiliating him, criticising him, calling him ‘fat’ and ‘ useless’ . Not always, but enough. And he would not see that it was wrong. The fact that he has limited relationships with his own adult children, now seems extremely relevant.
Dont get me wrong, the compulsive lying and the theft – from family, friends, school, our friends, us, me his grandparents – has been very, very hard. I have hated it. But you can’t hold what he did at 14/15 over his head for ever. He’s now almost 18 and I don’t believe he has stolen anything for at least 12 months.
One of the biggest deal breakers for exP and I has been his relationship with B. We went to family therapy for a while, but exP would not really engage.
Until B and I went to the Army recruitment centre; until this last fortnight on the NCS programme, until he dumped the odious girlfriend (he has done so) I saw little hope. By letting go of ExP I have provided him with his safe space again, at home.
The future is still uncertain. It won’t be easy. But at least now there is hope.
Being a mother is hard. But I love him, and he is MY son. He is kind, can be very considerate, has learned to control his temper – he never ever scares me like exP does and he’s just as strong – he’s good natured, and given the right opportunity I do believe he will thrive …
i know it will take me years to forgive myself for not removing exP from his life years ago.
First meeting with a different therapist tomorrow : and another on Friday. I need the right person.